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Head of Research at new Nightingale Hospital calls for donations for vital research

In the week the new Nightingale Hospital received its first patients suffering from Covid-19, the Head of Research at the new health facility in East London is calling for public donations to enable vital research into the disease to continue.

The research will develop a unique library of blood samples and data of NHS doctors and nurses at the hospital in East London and Barts Hospital which will help to work out why some people die of Covid-19 while others barely develop any symptoms at all.

Most research into Covid-19 is focussing on patients hospitalised with the disease, but this misses the opportunity to understand the early disease, why many infected people show few symptoms and what makes others more susceptible to severe disease.

Studying up to 1,000 healthcare workers – who will experience high rates of COVID-19 exposure – allows researchers to look at clinical information and samples from people before, during and after they develop disease (many of whom may show no symptoms) and therefore provides unique insights.

The subsequent library – or biorepository – will contain over 200,000 blood and swab samples, which will then be divided up among 25 of the UK’s leading academic and pharmaceutical research institutions for collaborative, swift science on Covid-19.

But the research team – the Covid Consortium – faces a huge challenge.

Despite recruiting hundreds of NHS workers to contribute to this unique research, they are struggling for funding.

While the research has to be performed now, as the pandemic escalates, it takes time for conventional funding to become available. 

Professor James Moon, Head of Research at The Nightingale Hospital and Chief Investigator of the Covid Consortium, is asking for charitable donations to expand the study.

Prof Moon said: “We have no funding currently. The pandemic is a fast-evolving situation and we took the decision that we had to start immediately and find funding later.

“We have bought three weeks of scientific kit and reagents, but 13 more weeks are needed for the complex analysis platforms, sample storage, and reagents to enable the study to deliver on as many of the aims as is possible.

“This research is an important part of preventing this pandemic from happening again – and we need the public’s support to make it happen.”

With the tragic news this week of younger, healthier people dying of the disease in the UK, as well as older people with underlying health problems, it’s important for the NHS to rapidly understand why Covid-19 affects people differently. 

The Covid Consortium is a research collaboration between Barts Health, University College London and the Queen Mary University London, and will build the biorepository over the next 16 weeks.

In the first week of the study, 400 healthcare professionals from Barts Hospital have provided their data and blood.

In parallel, the Covid Consortium has been in contact with 15 research groups across eight institutions, each of which has developed distinct research questions that they hope to use the data to answer.

The research will investigate the genetics of the response to the disease. Key Covid-19 questions the study hopes to answer also include:

•             Immunity: If people have had Covid-19, even mildly, are they protected from getting a bad dose in the future? If someone is immune to Covid-19, how long does this last for? If some people are resistant to further infection, can their antibodies be used to protect other people?

•             Transmission: Where are the ‘hot spots’ for catching the infection in a hospital setting? Does the virus mutate as it passes from person to person? If so, how does that affect how immune people are to Covid-19 i.e. could a person catch a subsequent version of the virus despite already having been infected?

•             Vaccination: What new ways are there to attack the virus, and find new ‘targets’ for drugs to be engineered to attack?

•             Testing: How can the NHS mass produce testing? Could production line techniques be used to do 1000s of tests a day, and make it easier to collect samples? Could patients perform their own tests rather than attending a centre and requiring a healthcare professional test them?

If you would like to support this innovative study into Covid-19, CLICK HERE.

Watch a video outlining the research project.

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